call me by your name by Andre Aciman

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Thoughts – Before Reading

Before I read the book I was wondering what the experience would be like. I knew roughly what it was about but I worried that I wouldn’t like it because it would be too stream of consciousness or even abstract for myself. So there was concern for me from the get go which is one of the reasons I did not buy it at BookPeople when I saw it. (A decision I am still ashamed of.) The cover looked interesting and the title was something that immediately caught my eye. Eventually, it was the fact that it was a gay coming of age story between a young boy and an older man that did it for me. Any story coming of age done right is lovely, but I don’t usually see it done like this and I was intrigued.

Thoughts – While Reading

OMFG! My heart!

That’s about all that can be said about that.

Thoughts – Post Reading

DEAD!

My life was consumed after I read the book. My world no longer turned for anything except to look for Oliver and Elio and then to turn into Elio myself and ask where my life went wrong and wonder where my Oliver is! But then I had to realize, right Tortie, you’re being crazy. These are story characters and need to calm down. So after realizing I am in fact not Elio looking for Oliver, I simply sat there and silently cried at the beautiful story that had consumed my life. It is one of the most invasive reads I have ever had in that I still cannot get over the story and how much it impacted me. Before I knew it, it had wormed its way into every part of my life and there was no getting it out.

Review

I first came across call me by your name by Andre Aciman on a Goodreads search when I looking up queer fiction. It popped up and I tried finding it in my local public library. However, they did not have it and that was that. It wasn’t until my writing partner brought it up again that I remembered, ‘oh yeah, I wanted to read that book’ and it was upon her insistence that I moved it up on my list of reading priorities. I found it at another public library, after shamefully not insta-buying it at BookPeople, and when I began to read it I knew I was hooked.

A book that completely took over my mind, body, and soul, I couldn’t put it down. I read and re-read passage after passage; took copious notes but never enough and cried and sobbed as the story developed. A story about the summer that changed Elio for the rest of his life and his encounter with the man that would forever haunt him. This story speaks to all of us with a ‘could have been’ love story. If it had been another time, it would have worked. If it had been the right place, it would have worked. And this is the ultimate story that we know would have worked had it been the right time and the right place, but it wasn’t. A haunting and raw telling of the love story that could have been but never was and the ever present ghosts that keep telling you that he is still here.

The main characters in the story are Elio and Oliver told from Elio’s perspective. Immediately we know that Oliver has an impact on Elio and we quickly see just how present the new guest at his parent’s summer home is in Elio’s mind. A normal 17-year old boy with less social practice than most, Elio is shy, quiet, and introverted. That does not, however, keep him from longing for the charismatic Oliver’s attention. Free and easy-going, Oliver seems to be the complete opposite of Elio and he quickly comes to terms with the fact that Oliver will never see anything in an inexperienced kid like himself.

Poetic, intelligent and academic, the two bond over their love for music, literature and the arts and they quickly realize they are getting a little too close for comfort. Even though told completely from Elio’s perspective, the two characters grow into 3-dimensional and flawed characters that are so real, you can almost feel the book pulse with their life blood.

Put these two very real and raw hearts against one of the most honest backgrounds I’ve read and you get a story that is sometimes more alive than the deadpan humans ghosting around you. Alive with humor, sarcasm and humanity, the entire cast creates a world that you forget is fabricated out of ink and paper and when you resurface, you wonder if you really hadn’t just stepped off a beach in Italy.

Elio and Oliver are flawed. You won’t always like them and at times, I wanted to strangle them both. The supporting cast is inconvenient and overbearing at times for the two guys still testing their limits and you can’t help but smile at how genuine their concern is. You can almost bet that you are looking into a magic mirror and seeing an evening on the far side of the world in real time. Alive and vibrant, colorful, flawed and raw; even though they came into my life as paper and ink, they quickly became even more real than the person standing next to me in line for coffee.

The setting of the story was in Italy and Rome but firstly in Elio’s head. Before we see anything else we first must go through Elio’s memories and then to see the Italy and Rome that changed his life forever. Haunted by ghosts of a past he can never forget and loves to relive, the setting is always shrouded in an almost invisible gray veil of what could have been. There is a hint of sadness wherever we go because we know and he knows that it is not meant to be.

The bookstores and convenience shops seem to be abandoned buildings brought back to life by the vivid and obsessive memory of one that cannot let go. You never forget where you are or what the story is and the way we go through that summer and then life after Oliver adds an extra layer of bittersweet nostalgia that makes all those already memorable places singe into your  mental eye – never to be forgotten.

The plot of the story is different than in most. There really is no plot save for the telling of a good story and you know how it all comes to pass long before you turn the page and Oliver is gone.

Despite having an unconventional plot line, there are subplots that wrinkle the perfect trajectory of the story. The book is not only a memory, it is also the fights and instances that shaped the rest of Elio’s life. So even though he recalls everything with smooth and vivid clarity, we get to peal away that very lacquered layer of fine oil to reveal the original beaten and battered wood that shaped him into the adult reliving the past.

From the get-go, the conflict of the book is ‘Does Oliver like me?’ and ‘How do I act around him to make sure I am doing it right?’ The conflict at its core is a young boy trying to figure out how to act around the guy that he likes. He’s trying to be mature so as to impress Oliver but he can’t help but be a spoiled child at times and he hates himself for it. Once the feelings are out in the open, there is the guilt of wondering if what he did was right or if maybe they shouldn’t have done it in the first place. And after Oliver leaves, it’s Elio trying to live with himself and the absence and hold Oliver left.

The constant throughout the book is that Oliver is part of the conflict in some manner or another and Elio is constantly struggling with his presence and lack thereof.

The resolution of the story was hardly a resolution at all. It was more of a ‘this is how life goes’ sort of ending that made me want to wail and cry at the top of my lungs and beg Mr. Andre Aciman to say it isn’t so! But it is. And I cried.

A real life story sort of an ending, it didn’t end the way I wanted it to but the way I knew it would from the first moment I read the very painful blurb. A haunting and exquisite story that will be with me for the rest of my life, I couldn’t have asked for a more emotionally taxing and stunning ride. Elio and Oliver will live on with me as the ghosts that haunt Elio to the very end. The hope he feels even 20 years after that fateful summer will forever leave me with tearful desire that Oliver, at the last moment of the last day before they parted for the last time called Elio by his name.

 

 

 

 

 

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Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

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After reading The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran, I knew I had to read Nefertiti. I have a special fondness for Nefertiti. She was the first ancient Egyptian queen I fell in love with when I was 11 years old. After that came Hatshepsut and then Nefertari. This is a book I read through as quickly as I could and even then I couldn’t read it fast enough! I felt like I was there in the ancient court of Akhenaten. A woman known as one of the most beautiful and powerful rulers to ever live in Ancient Egypt, this book was everything I wanted and more. The story leapt off the pages at you and I couldn’t have been happier.

The characters in this story are some of the most well written characters I have ever read. Like always, Ms. Moran puts her best foot forward in all of her writing and the finished product is absolutely astounding. Told from the point of view of Nefertiti’s younger sister, Mutnodjmet, at first I felt leery about it. Initially disappointed I wouldn’t see the world through the queen’s eyes, I quickly saw how critical this decision was in the writing of this book.

Nefertiti is a very lively and ambitious character. She moved a million miles a minute in the book, just as I’m sure she did in real life. Nothing ever slowed her down and she kept looking to the future and beyond, just like her husband. To have the story told from her perspective and to keep it true to what I believe Nefertiti was like in ancient times, would have been to get a story revolving around Akhenaten and Amarna. The rest of Egypt would have been a passing thought if not completely forgotten.

I quickly fell in love with Mutny, as she was so endearingly called by her sister, and the cast of the story. Even the most minor characters were multi-dimensional. Not once did I see a character that was flat. Every single person in this story, from the Vizier Ay to the jealous second-wife Kiya, had a moment of development in the story. The character of Nefertiti was slowly unwrapped before our eyes through the very sensible and grounded eyes of Mutny. By the end of the story, I felt like Nefertiti had been my own sister and like I knew her from the inside out. Not even the larger than life Akhenaten could steal the lime light from Nefertiti.

It was also a very pleasant surprise to see that even the ‘bad guys’ of the book weren’t one dimensionally evil. They were complex characters that had conflicting emotions that, although were motivated by selfish gain, could be at times sympathized with. For a writer to create an antagonist that can make a reader feel sympathy for their cause is nothing short of remarkable. It really shows that Ms. Moran really knew and understood every single character she brought to the page.

The setting of the book is well balanced. We got an entire tour of Ancient Egypt and the palaces in the few hundred pages we had. We moved from Memphis, to Thebes, Amarna and back. We visited many palaces and Audience Chambers and it seemed as though I was there looking at the painted mosaics that the writer described. Everything was in vivid and exquisite detail. The gardens that we could hardly imagine in the desert of modern-day Egypt were painted so vividly I felt I could reach out and touch them with my hand. The sand seemed to get caught in between my teeth and by the time I put the book down, I felt like I had to shake some Egyptian sand from my sandals. The entire world completely immersed you and when I paused to look around my room, I was startled at the fact that I was in fact not in the Riverside Palace.

The plot of the book was exceptionally well executed. Considering Nefertiti is one of the most mysterious queens of the ancient world because her name was almost completely wiped out from existence, I felt like everything in the book was very believable. The personality given to Nefertiti who was the real driving force behind everything in this book was very genuine and true to me. She would have been the diva and pampered royal with her husband wrapped around her finger. She would have been the selfish and spoiled sister that wanted to be the center of the universe and she, of course, was never to blame. And the more I saw the plot develop and the more divaesque I saw her, the less I hated her. Mutny really did make it almost impossible to hate the sister she so adored.

So many unexpected twists and turns, the plot of this book will leave you reeling for more. The conspiracies and lies that pushed Nefertiti and her Egypt are almost too astounding to comprehend. It seems almost too unbelievable but the simple fact that Akhenaten tried to kill all of their gods and raise only one above all else, really makes everything else much easier to swallow.

The liberties taken to push the plot forward seemed historically accurate because of how seamless everything flowed. The drought, famine, plagues – everything was perfect! Nothing was out of place!

The conflict of this story from the very beginning was between Akhenaten and the empire. A king determined to redo Egypt itself set the stage as a force to be reckoned with. I almost worried that Nefertiti would not get in a word edge wise when I started the book. But just like he was a great character, so she had to be an even greater one to stand as an equal with him. Nefertiti was in control of everything in palace and it quickly became clear that this book was not going to be about Nefertiti as the Chief Wife to Amenhotep. It was going to be about Nefertiti as Pharaoh and Coregent to Akhenaten. It became the Pharaohs against the world and the price it cost her. As Egypt fell apart around them, we see Nefertiti fighting her best to keep her small paradise of Amarna intact. When it all begins to crumble, the conflict that has been brooding under the sands of Egypt finally comes to full fruition and everything is thrown into chaos.

The resolution of the story hurt my soul. It was beautiful and tragic. It was perfect and flawed. It was everything all at once and I felt like I had taken a fist to the gut when the story finally wound down. Finally, after 400 pages of chaos and uncertainty everything settled the way history wrote it had. It was a bittersweet ending I knew would come and when we see Nefertiti last, my heart felt heavy with her sacrifices. As Mutny so perfectly put it,

 . . . only I could see what becoming Pharaoh had cost her . . . I could only guess how heavy her crook and flail must be. (Nefertiti, 439 )

This quote really sums up the entire book for me. It is heavy with what Nefertiti went through and even as I read the words, it weighs on my chest. A beautiful and breathtaking novel. I could not have asked for anything more. I feel like part of my soul has withered away with this book, swept away with the water of the Nile. I feel a deep loss for everything that has happened and even though this all took place over two thousand years ago, to me, the reign of Nefertiti ended only yesterday.

Please let me know what your thoughts were on this magnificent book! I will say that my favorite character in the entire story was Mutny! I loved her every step of the way and I felt everything she felt! What was your favorite character? Let me know!

Love,

The Reading Tortie

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

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The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran is a book that I picked up of my own accord. Finally! A book my soul aches at reading. I picked up The Heretic Queen because I was in a serious reading depression after reading book after disappointing book. I needed something I knew I would like and although I read this out of order, I know I needed Michelle Moran’s ancient Egypt. So much! And boy was I right! A serious addiction, hands down one of the best historical fiction I’ve ever read!

I am absolutely in love with ancient Egypt and for a book to be about one of my favorite Queens and Pharaohs of Egypt was like heaven on print. Yes! My first historical fiction of Nefertari and Ramesses and I am not disappointed! At all! I love Nefertari! I want to tattoo her cartouche on me one day! This woman is as much of a goddess to me as she was to her own people. To read a book from her point of view about her struggle to be crowned Queen of Egypt – I almost cried at the honor I was given. Did it take place like this? Maybe? Who knows! Did I love this ride? Absolutely!

The characters of this book are absolutely breathtaking. They are vibrant, beautiful and alive. They seem to leap off the pages with their personalities and that is a breath of fresh air. The core cast was very well balanced with characters I just knew I liked, Asha, characters I wished would die, Iset and Henuttawy, and characters that sometimes frustrated me, Nefertari and Ramesses. Although some characters appeared to be more two-dimensional than others, displaying only foul qualities, I think they were justified because of the plot motivating the entire story. Ms. Moran depicts the court of Ramesses the Great in a very realistic and believable light. Every court has its scandals and plots. Treachery and lies are a bit of a staple in courts throughout history. The drama that plays out between the characters seems very grounded to me if only because Nefertari was related to Nefertiti. And it never really dawned on me how unwelcome she would be in the new court. Ms. Moran did a fantastic job depicting the livelihood of the court of Ancient Egypt in a very refined way that did not seem to drag in the least.

The setting of the book is very well managed. The reader was not crammed into one over heated palace with a miserable aunt and petty court for the entirety of novel. Instead, we were given a grand tour of the ups and downs in the life of Nefertari. We watched her in her school and childhood room. We watched her grow in the temple and return to a different palace. The court moved around and we caught glimpses of the whole of Egypt’s empire during the campaign. The entire time Ms. Moran reminded us of how vibrant and alive her Ancient Egypt was. The gardens, the flowers, and the natural beauty were never neglected; I could almost smell the flowers. She also did a splendid job of describing the grandeur of the alabaster. The absolute beauty and refinement of the palaces was never in question or lost. It was exquisitely depicted in the most insignificant details.

I don’t exactly dislike the plot but I think that is where I had my biggest ISH. Ancient Egypt by nature has plot holes out the butt with entire centuries of history missing. The fact that Ms. Moran took the plot holes and put a sort of mystery/thriller spin on it is extremely creative but at the same time I’m a little eh about it. I don’t particularly like mystery books but she did it in a very sneaky way  and I appreciated the hint of that flavor amidst the plot. It never dragged but kept a very steady momentum. The great characters really kept the pace in the story and I am extremely grateful for that. Aside from the plot being outstandingly paced I also appreciate the creative liberties she took with the plot. This is a historical fiction at the end of the day. There are going to be fiction/creative elements present in the book and for that I am very thankful. They gave this tale a new life. New possibilities. To see someone else fill in the gaps of a story I already tried to piece together is amazing. I love seeing other historically creative liberties – even if I don’t agree with them sometimes. Thankfully in this book, we were all pretty much on the same page. This also probably doesn’t have as many creative liberties as other books either considering I don’t think there was a whole lot that she “changed” directly but just assembled a little differently and spiced it up with her own flavorings.

The conflict of this story is really between Nefertari and Egypt as a whole. The more specific circles of conflict are between her and the court but I really like that multi-dimensional aspect of this. The people are very aggressively against Nefertari and although some would argue no peasant would ever openly attack a royal and be allowed to live, one thing to keep in mind is that this is all taking place during a drought. The people are dying from starvation and they place the blame on Nefertari. Yes, I do think peasants would risk death and honestly, if they truly believed it was because of her that the gods were angry, they would revolt. The ever present conflict between Nefertari and Ramesses, I think, is also very believable because Nefertari is trying her best to convince him she is not a petty heretic. There is not a single wasted element in this story and I love her many layers of conflict in this very vivid and realistic depiction of the royal court of Ramesses the Great.

The resolution of the story is very satisfying and even though I knew how it would end – because, historical fiction – it was a truly satisfying conclusion. I liked that justice was pretty much had and it really wasn’t the “happily ever after” ending, but more the “things have finally fallen into place” ending. There are still some loose ends that weren’t really ever addressed and I think I’m okay with that because it is very realistic in the sense of life.

Nefertari is one of my most favorite queens of Egypt, along with Hatshepsut. To read a good book about her life and her struggles that was exceptionally executed and creative is a gift unlike any other for me. I am still reeling from this book and my soul hurts to know that it’s over. A part of me died when that final page turned and I still have Nefertari with me in my soul. I feel as though I’ve made a best friend in her that will always be with me and I am so thankful to Michelle Moran for that great story. Exceptional execution. I can’t wait to reread this book!

Let me know what you all thought about this book! I’d love to hear your perspectives!

Love,

The Reading Tortie

 

 

Book Review – Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant

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Blood and Beauty A Novel of the Borgias by Sarah Dunant is a book that I picked up on my own. I saw that it was about the Borgias and I reached for it faster than I realized what I was doing. I just inherently knew that I needed this book in my life. This is a book that is right up my alley – historical fiction and the Borgias – so find me quite surprised when I’m not immediately sucked into the universe that is the Italian Renaissance of Sarah Dunant. I went into this book expecting a palace of priceless treasures and came out less than impressed.

The characters that Ms. Dunant portrays are accurate and realistic but I’m sorry to say fall a bit flat. I feel like Ms. Dunant took some of the most vibrant historical figures and created something dingy and muddy. They come off as 2-dimensional at best and completely uninteresting at worst. They seemed to be laced with the writer’s prejudices, most of them not very positive, and it irked me a little to see some of my favorite historical characters depicted in a less than flattering light. Not that I expect everyone to be paraded around as demi-gods, but I don’t think they would have been as negative as she painted them. I also feel like she gave them such a negative light to make up for the lack of life in the book; a bit of a cop out that she could create characters that at least excited disgust or horror in the reader. And it fell completely on its face.

Cesare seemed always to be a brooding and angry cloud. Nothing he ever did was ever seen as really positive. When his feelings for the oh so innocent Lucrezia were revealed I could almost see the writer painting him as this demonic viper preying on the innocent angel in the corrupt Vatican palace. Lucrezia, in turn, always seemed very innocent and one dimensional. It wasn’t until the latter half of the book that she seemed to come into her own person, barely, and just in time for the book to end. I refuse to believe that Lucrezia, being a part of one of the most notorious families in history, remained as angelic and naïve as she is depicted. The characters seemed to ghost through the entire book at their peaks and lethargically crawl at their worst. Although I realize nobody in the family was ever really the archetypal ‘good guy’, I dislike that Ms. Dunant seemed to go out of her way to depict everyone in the Borgia family – save for the innocent Lady Lucrezia – as malicious, completely greedy and miserable souls. I feel short changed on that end, though I do admit they seemed to be accurate albeit drab portrayals of the real members of the House of Borgia.

The setting was constantly changing in a very good way. Ms. Dunant really covered a lot of ground in relatively little time. I feel like we went through every room in the Vatican, the palaces, the courtyard, main areas of Rome and even toured Italy in very little time and I appreciate that. Not a single minutiae was missed when describing the grandeur – or lack thereof – in the courts and palaces that were visited. The details were painstakingly noted and I appreciate that as a fan of the family and era. Otherwise, I kind of wonder if it didn’t drag a bit. But it takes a lot for a piece of literature to drag, in my opinion. Overall, great work with the setting – the weather, travel and depictions of war.

This is a historical fiction, so not a lot of surprises were in store. All I can really critique or comment on are the liberties she took – or did not take. I am appreciative – as a Borgia Slut – that she provided an explanation for the Roman baby. I also appreciate that in the murder of Juan Borgia Cesare was never in any real question. She made it very clear almost immediately that Cesare was not the one that murdered Juan. Something else I think she did very well was inject the plot with the fanatical and obsessive affection of Rodrigo Borgia. All these elements really added to the plot and made me extremely happy, despite the flat characters. There was occasionally a glimpse of color before you blinked it was gone.

There were many circles of conflict: Rodrigo vs. Lucrezia, Cesare vs. Rodrigo, Cesare vs. Lucrezia, Cesare vs. the State, Borgias vs. Italy. Like real life, she captured that aspect very well. There was no ‘big plot’ but a lot of small conflicts that helped to create the grander scale conflict. Aside from the conflicts of Borgia vs. Borgia, there was also the main overarching Borgia vs. the world that was headed more by Cesare than Rodrigo at times. I think that the Borgia stance in Rome was very well depicted in that it wasn’t as stable as it probably appeared to the world at the time. The constant threat of treachery and ruin made the story very real and believable. The conflicts that were taking place within the Vatican walls among the family and the struggle Cesare faced trying to conquer Italy was very realistic. Especially since Cesare did not have his own army.

It was extremely difficult for me to pass when Lucrezia did not reciprocate Cesare’s love. I didn’t like that conflict because in this little Tortie’s heart, they will always be the greatest romance to ever be related . . . or just ever. The conflicts around Lucrezia seemed almost childish at times but tolerable compared to her refusal of Cesare’s affections. Much more tolerable, in my opinion.

The novel ended on a bit of a cliff hanger but a very satisfying one none the less. The sacrifices Lucrezia makes are real and I think a very solid way to end the book. Although there was indication that a second book will be coming, it was a satisfactory end for the first part.

I am excited for the second part but at the same time kind of cringe at the thought that it will be filled with more dead characters that are unexcitedly glooming across the pages. Although there were very high points, the overall impression is that of bland dissatisfaction. I like the book because I am a Borgia Slut, not necessarily because it was very good. It gets the facts across with a dash of creativity but that’s about all you’re going to get out of this historical fiction.

Something very bittersweet is the attention she gave the diseases and illnesses that beset Rome. I’m happy that it was put in such graphic detail but a little conflicted and ISH-ie because my beloved Cesare had syphilis. It’s a very double edged sword but I can’t help but feel ecstatic she made the presence of syphilis in Rome so painfully clear.

Overall a little dissatisfied that it’s a relatively underdone family – compared to the Tudors – and it was very lack luster and severely wanting. The only reason, I believe, that I still liked the book was because I am such a Borgia Slut and love everything Borgia. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d have a whole lot of positive things to say about this book.

Love,

The Reading Tortie

Book Review – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was recommended to me by a friend. It is not a book I would have picked up on my own because of its fantasy elements and the fact that it is YA but I found myself sucked into the world created by Mr. Gaiman.

The characters in the book were very well written. I sympathized and loved the graveyard inhabitants, I respected Silas and Bod was innocently charming. He was very likeable and I liked that he was depicted in a way that would be expected of someone raised in such a somber environment. He always had an air of maturity around him when I read him and he sounded very intellectual. He thirsted for knowledge and his speech reflected that he was raised by people centuries old; people from different times. I also liked his ever constant calm and I would like to think that was the Silas Bod had in him.

Silas was by far my favorite character. I fell in love with him immediately and as Bod angered and hurt him, my feelings for Bod changed. I cared too much for Silas and his disturbance was a greater evil than anything found in the book. And when I found myself reacting to Bod and Silas, I realized how much the book had touched me. I was reacting to them and I liked it because that meant they were well written enough and real enough that they warranted my reaction.

The man Jack is someone that I initially liked but as I saw his character develop I stopped caring about him. He became too human. And I did not like that. I imagined him and hoped he would be another Silas – stoic and wonderfully aloof. But he wasn’t and that was disappointing. Towards the end of the book, the man Jack ceased to affect me as a character.

The setting was vividly described. I could smell and feel everything Bod felt. The trees and the apples, the decrepit chapel and the crypts. It had the spooky element when needed and it felt real and genuine. Likewise, it had a domestic and cheerful element to it when needed. I liked the descriptions of the town and although I understand why the settings changed – for character development – it annoyed me. Particularly because the other settings seemed to be cut and pasted into place. It seemed awkward, even forced at times, and it frustrated me. I wanted to get on with Bod’s story without the side adventures and change of settings but I know they were necessary for it so I took it as a required evil I had to endure.

The plot was obvious at times and forgotten at others. I did not know if there was going to be closure concerning the man Jack because so much of the book is Bod’s explorations and adventures. I assumed it would have to be dealt with because it is YA and he is the ‘bad guy’ but I wondered at times. I also liked the development of the characters around Bod that helped with the plot advancement.

I appreciated that there was more than one conflict in the book. Because this is a coming of age book, I liked that it showed sub-conflicts in accordance with Bod’s center; e.g. Silas, his parents, his own curiosity with the outside and forbidden. It kept the story from reading too perfectly – Bod is after all human.

The resolution was terribly anti-climactic concerning what I identify as the main plotline. The conclusion of the book as a whole is perfectly melancholy and makes me react to it. I liked that. The conclusion to Bod’s battle was indifferent at best – I was more interested in the battles taking place elsewhere, with Silas – but that also might be because I did not quite like or care about the man Jack by the time I got to that part of the story. The ending was not happy and for that I am grateful. It was right. I think that’s what saved the conclusion for me.

Overall not a bad book but wanting. I went in expecting more than I got but it is YA. This is not my genre and I find most YA that I like leaving me wanting. So good in that I would have liked more substance but a bit not good in that I fear it would have read like it was cut and pasted without an attempt to making it blend and flow.

Neil Gaiman is an exquisite writer. It reads like a beautiful melody in segments but as a whole it seemed to stumble, especially with the side episodes. I believe the entire book could have done without chapter six. That was the most infuriating section of the book for me. The chapter dragged and, in my opinion, it was purposeless filler.

The one memorable thing that I cannot forget of this book is Silas. He makes the entire book worthwhile for me and it is because of him that I do not dislike the book. To dislike the book would be a betrayal to him.

Love,

The Reading Tortie

Book Review – All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy was recommended to me by a good friend. I was not very excited to pick up the book since it is a western story and a romance to boot, but I told him I would read it and read it I did. And boy, was it an enjoyable ride! I didn’t expect it to be horrible, it’s a book by Mr. McCarthy. But I did not expect to fall in love with it so much.

The characters of the story are extremely well written and well rounded. The cast we follow are all very human and relatable. None of them really plays the super hero and there are no real extraordinary acts that make one character stronger or more powerful than the other. They have their flaws within the universe of the book but outside of that, I don’t see anything wrong with any of them. They are all normal people trying to live the one life they have and true to form, life insists on throwing their plans awry. Their way of life and reasoning behind their actions is very honest and despite the fact that there is nothing finite to any of the characters – most are left with beautiful open ends – there is a realism there that I truly love and respect. It is exquisitely done; nothing is bland and boring but colored and flavored with all of the beauties and woes of life.

I have a deep love-hate relationship with the old west and stories of the like. I won’t pick any of those books up by choice, I avoid them like the plague for an unknown reason, I just know I won’t like it. But then I pick up a story set in the old west and I fall madly in love with the setting and lifestyle. The setting is ancient and wild and at the same time modern and forward looking. The juxtaposition of the wild with the increasingly modern world is very well done and it’s almost heart breaking to see the end of the way of life that John Grady is so desperate to keep alive. There was a kind of feral quality to the mountains and rivers whispering through the land that is quickly cut off when they pass through a village or sit in a café. The depiction of the towns was mouth wateringly accurate. I felt my heart swell when John Grady entered those villages because I felt like I was there too. They were painfully real and vivid. Mr. McCarthy does not paint a flat canvas but dynamic and interactive place where the children misbehave and the people are tired and trying to make ends meet. Extremely well done.

There is and is not a whole lot of plot, in my opinion. The most identifiable plot is the romance between Alejandra and John Grady but it comes almost as an afterthought in the best way possible. The story does not force itself to read like a western trying to be a romance or vice versa. It is very true to itself and at the end of the day it is the tale of a boy trying to find his place in a world he feels extremely disconnected from. This is as much a romance between a boy and a girl as it is between a boy and the land. I feel like the actual plot of the entire story is around John Grady and his love for a dying way of life.

The descriptions of the land, the country, and the horses sound so romantic and so desperate, I feel the heart break as the modern world encroaches on that volatile way of life. I think because the book reads so realistically, the plot is simple but multidimensional. There is a lot going on all of the time and it is all just as important because it shapes the character throughout the book.

The most obvious conflict, like plot, is the conflict between Alejandra and John Grady and I think the climax of that conflict was extremely appropriate and realistic. There are many different conflicts – some greater than others – but none so overwhelmingly overdone that it takes precedence over everything else. Like everything else in the book, it is realistic and grounded. It is a conflict – nothing more, nothing less – and it is somehow resolved. It might not be completely satisfactory but it its resolved and life continues. There is no issue that grossly overtakes the main character, although some issues are more important than others, they are not overly dramatized and I appreciate the fine moderation.

The ending of the book was extremely satisfying. It was neither good nor bad; happy nor sad. Like everything else in the book it is realistic, moderate and almost too perfect in itself. There was no other possible ending that would have fit quite as perfectly and I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to the story.

In all honesty, I loved this book. It was the perfect mix of dialogue and description to give the story a haunting feel. Everything in the story seemed so precise and measured, it feels as if Mr. McCarthy tinkered away at every single sentence until the perfect diction was decided and set with great precision.

The description of the food is something else I’d like to mention. There was something magical in the description of the food – I could smell and taste what they ate. When they drank water out of a tin cup, I could feel it against my tongue and lips as they drank. The cold beans and tortillas were so tangible, I could almost smell them coming off the page. The descriptions of the food and the country are what stuck to me the most.

Overall, a fantastic book with haunting and breathtaking descriptions. I would recommend this book to anyone that wanted to read a great book about an average Joe trying to make sense of and find his place in the crazy world he was born into.

Love,

The Reading Tortie